We bought a house in paradise. We have been looking while we traveled and we finally found it. Admittedly we were in a better position to buy it after selling our house in Marin to our tenant.
We got a very good deal and there is the opportunity for others to get in on this. There are some draw backs to Vanuatu, particularly for an American. The main problem is that it is difficult to get to. The only airport capable of receiving jets is in the capital of Port Vila. From there it is a short flight to Luganville. Port Vila has no direct flights to the US so you have to come through Fiji with an overnight layover or through New Zealand which is out of the way. Needless to say it is costly and time consuming. They are upgrading the airport at Luganville to accept jets with the idea of receiving charter flights from Australia but hopefully this will lead to flights directly from Fiji, Hawaii or maybe even Los Angeles in the future.
The other problem is that you can't own the land. You get a 75 year lease with the lease fee set by the government. It works out to about US$320 for our land each year. Edson, our custom landwoner, is very pleased with our purchase as he was only receiving $1.50 per year for our land when it was zoned agricultural. We actually feel this system is a good thing because the locals don't feel that their land is being sold out from under them so it should make for a better long term relationship. There is no property tax or income tax in Vanuatu though they are implementing a 12.5% Value Added Tax. They do not require the collection of the tax for businesses and individuals with a revenue under US$32,000 so we won't pay it on rental income.
Currently only Australia and New Zealand have direct flights to Port Vila so probably 90% of the visitors to the Santo area are Australian divers or their travel companions. Vanuatu is viewed as a very desirable tourist destination by Australians. Divers return often to Santo to dive the world's most accessible wreck, the SS Coolidge. They often combine a visit to Santo with travel in other parts of Vanuatu.
Vanuatu is an amazing combination of the modern world and traditional island culture. The natives or "Ni-Vanuatu" have retained their customs even as they have transitioned to Christian beliefs and they combine the two in amazing ways. They are intelligent, proud and friendly people. It is their country and if you lose sight of that they will remind you but they value expatriates and they encourage immigrants that can help their country.
The Luganville area was a huge US base during W.W.II. 600,000 troops came through on their way to the major battles in the Pacific. They left behind all manner of ruin and wreck but the star attraction is the 650 ft. luxury liner/troop ship, SS President Coolidge. It sank after striking friendly mines and lies on its side in almost perfect condition. It is truly amazing. The area is a divers heaven with all manner of wreck and also beautiful coral walls and a heart pumping shark dive. There are also amazing land excursions to see both geological wonders and W.W.II relics. The beaches are gorgeous and unspoiled. There is a lot more to do than most people realize because it is underdeveloped due to the transportation problems. Most visitors are divers and they just want to dive.
Santo is caught in a trap. It doesn't have enough visitors because of the underdeveloped accommodations and lack of developed attractions beyond diving. Development of accommodations, activities like golf, and transportation need to occur together but until recently there was little progress. It appears that things are changing rapidly and the future may be very bright for the area. .
Our house is about 800 sq. ft with a large front porch under roof and we got it complete with solar power system and landscaping for under US$100,000. The property is 140 ft of waterfront which goes back 250 ft so it is big enough to build another house in the future. In our travels we have learned that there is only a limited amount of land like this in the South Pacific and we have been on the look out for an opportunity like this. Our house is in a development which is just beginning. We can put you in touch with the developers if you think you might be interested. E-mail us at email@example.com . We won't receive a commission as we will pass you on as a commission free buyer but we are considering the possibility of investing in future work in the development and we now own a home there so we can't say we don't have an interest.